Golden State Killer's family claim his rampage was the result of him watching his sister get raped when they were children
Joseph DeAngelo committed at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 to 1986
According to the family of Joseph DeAngelo, the man who is suspected to be the notorious Golden State Killer, he watched his seven-year-old sister Constance get raped by two men when he was about nine years old. The relatives believe that this incident from DeAngelo's childhood could have been the trigger that led to him going on a spree of sexual assaults and murders.
On April 24, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department revealed that 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo was responsible for the brutal killings of 12 people and the rapes of 51 others in California between 1974 and 1986.
According to the family, DeAngelo was nine or ten when he saw his seven-year-old sister Constance being raped by two airmen in an Air Force base warehouse in Germany.
Jesse Ryland, 35, one of Constance's sons, told BuzzFeed News, "Maybe that was the start of Joe going wacko."
Professor Ann Wolbert Burgess, a psychiatric nurses who has experience examining the origin stories of serial killers for the FBI, said that a traumatic incident like rape that is witnessed at a young age could have formed a sick fantasy that DeAngelo kept trying to recreate in his later years.
"Of course that would be significant and could have set the nucleus of the fantasy. What probably happened was that it was something that he kept on his mind," she said.
DeAngelo and his three siblings had to move very often as children because their father, Joseph DeAngelo Sr, served in the US Air Force. Records show that DeAngelo Sr used to physically assault his wife Kathleen. He is said to have even received a warning from the Air Force that he would be thrown out if he hit his wife again.
Ryland said that his grandfather also hit his children. "I'm pretty positive they were all abused like that," he said. According to Ryland, Constance had told her parents that she was raped, but she and DeAngelo Jr were told not to tell anyone about the incident.
Paul Holes, a retired cold case investigator who came up with the DNA family-tracing technique that helped nab DeAngelo and who had been looking for the Golden State Killer for 24 years, says serial killers more often than not grow up in highly abusive environments.
He added that there are many people who grow up with similar trauma but do not end up becoming violent criminals.
Holes believes the suspected killer was driven to commit the crimes by the breakup of his engagement to a woman in the 1960s.
“As more is found out about him and his childhood, we’ll get a better sense on how witnessing something like that would have contributed to him developing into the guy he was,” Holes told Buzzfeed News.
Kenneth Ryland Sr, Constance's former husband, told BuzzFeed that she had never once spoken about the rape while they were married and that he only heard about it from his son Jesse.
DeAngelo Sr ended up divorcing Kathleen and moving to South Korea. Once there, he had children with his second wife and gave them the same names as his older children in the US.
The authorities were able to catch DeAngelo by matching the DNA that they found at the crime scenes all those years ago with DNA profiles on online genealogy websites. They were first able to find DeAngelo's relatives and the search eventually led them to him.
DeAngelo Jr was charged with eight counts of murder in Sacramento County, Ventura County, and Orange County at earlier dates. He has had four other charges added to his list this week.
The charges that were framed against DeAngelo this week are for the murders of Cheri Domingo and Greg Sanchez in 1981, and the killings of Robert Offerman and Debra Manning in 1979.